For Whom Does ‘What Works’ Work? The Political Economy of Evidence-based Education

Educational Research and Evaluation: An International Journal on Theory and Practice (Forthcoming)

27 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2019

See all articles by Nick Cowen

Nick Cowen

School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln

Date Written: January 26, 2019

Abstract

What role does scientific evidence play in educational practice? Supporters of evidence-based education (EBE) see it as a powerful way of improving the quality of public services which is readily applicable to the education sector. Academic scholarship, however, points out important limits to this applicability. I offer an account inspired by Tullock’s theory of bureaucracy that helps explain EBE’s influence despite these limits. Recent configurations of EBE are an imperfect solution to two imperatives where policymakers are at an informational disadvantage: (i) guiding professionals working in the field and (ii) evaluating evidence from academic researchers. EBE, especially in the form of RCTs and systematic reviews, offers a way of filtering a complex range of research to produce a determinate result that is transparent to policymakers. However, this impression of research transparency is misleading as it omits theoretical background that is critical for successfully interpreting the results of particular interventions. This comes at a cost of relevance to the frontline professionals whom this research evidence is supposed to inform and help.

Keywords: Evidence-Based Policy, Randomized Controlled Trials, Tullock, Education Theory, Pedagogy, Public Education, Bureaucracy

JEL Classification: H38, I29

Suggested Citation

Cowen, Nick, For Whom Does ‘What Works’ Work? The Political Economy of Evidence-based Education (January 26, 2019). Educational Research and Evaluation: An International Journal on Theory and Practice (Forthcoming), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3323528 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3323528

Nick Cowen (Contact Author)

School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln ( email )

Lincoln LN2
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://ulincoln.academia.edu/NickCowen

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
89
Abstract Views
777
Rank
538,912
PlumX Metrics